Jandei Cherry, a free-spirited musician and doting father of a daughter about to turn 3, lost his life in circumstances strange even by South Florida standards.
Abandoned at the beach by a friend who took his clothes and skateboard, Cherry apparently decided to run home — naked.
The 22-year-old busboy was less than a mile into a 10-mile journey to Pembroke Pines when, police say, he got into a fight with a passing motorist who stopped to check on the nude man running west on Hollywood Boulevard.
“It is not normal for someone to be running naked down Hollywood Boulevard,” said Hollywood police Lt. Osvaldo Perez. “I think that’s what spiked the other guy’s attention.”
During the pre-dawn tussle, Cherry was shot in the stomach. He was pronounced dead at Memorial Regional Hospital, said police.
Police have identified the man who shot Cherry as Duke Laguerre, 29. He told detectives he was driving west on Hollywood Boulevard between 5 and 5:30 a.m. Oct. 6 when he spotted the nude man. He passed by him, then turned around and went back, he told police.
Police have provided no details of what Laguerre told them of his encounter with Cherry. There was no indication they knew each other, said police.
Laguerre has not been charged in the shooting. At his family home in Miami Gardens, his mother declined to speak on the record. She said her son would not talk about the incident.
To Cherry’s family and friends, the anguish of his death is compounded by its oddity.
“I never met someone with a brighter aura than Jandei,” said co-worker Kaylee Martinez, 20. “Sweet, witty, always making people laugh. He deserves to be known for who he was, not just a naked man running around Hollywood.”
For Auta Cherry, the killing of her son “was foolish and senseless and did not have to happen. This story has so many twists. But my son is dead, and someone has to be held accountable.”
Auta Cherry said an account of how her son came to be without his clothes, wallet or a cellphone was provided by a friend of her son’s who worked with him at the Quarterdeck, on the Dania Beach Pier. In a phone call last week, Cherry said that friend told her that he and Jandei ended up at the beach after getting off work late Saturday.
They argued and Jandei punched him in the face, the friend told her. The friend then took off with Jandei’s clothes and skateboard, he told her.
Contacted by phone Monday, that friend declined comment.
Cherry’s belongings were picked up at the restaurant and brought to the family home by another friend last week. His pants, Quarterdeck work shirt, underwear, socks and shoes were in a plastic bag. His skateboard was intact. In his wallet were his ID and more than $70.
Quarterdeck general manager John Maddalena said he hired Cherry just as the restaurant opened last October because he was so impressed by his outgoing personality. “He was a great kid, smart, funny and a good worker,” he said.
On Sunday, more than 30 friends and relatives gathered at the restaurant for a memorial at the beach Cherry loved. Several paddled out on boards and in kayaks to strew flowers on the water.
“The more I think about this, the more I think it makes no sense,” said Auta Cherry. “It is hearthbreaking.
“He was running naked, yes, but he had no choice. And knowing my son he would have forgiven the man who shot him.”